Movie Review: 'Bad Words' (2013) - Flows with Pitch Perfect Precision

Outrageous, curiously outlandish and absolutely hilarious, these sentiments sum up Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, "Bad Words." A sharp script by Andrew Dodge serves as the perfect platform for Bateman to shine as the horribly cruel and shockingly crude, Guy Trilby. Trilby is similar to Billy Bob Thornton’s profanity soaked character from “Bad Santa” even finding his Grinch-stricken heart melted infinitesimally by a sweet kid.

Where that film’s thorny protagonist (antagonist?) was obscenely recognizable as a jerk, complete with a gruff appearance, a lot of the shock in “Bad Words” comes from seeing the straight laced Bateman saying the vilest things. This character is a major departure from his previous work and he sells it with a charisma that makes Trilby bizarrely tolerable.

Dodge’s script is dark comedy gold and it features a hard thing to come by these days, an original premise. A grown adult competing against kids in a spelling bee for an unknown motive plays as a vibrant visual comedy and a dialogue-rich satire of the entire spelling bee process.

The spark of the film actually belongs to Bateman’s much younger co-star, Rohan Chand who’s a scene-stealer as the bright Chaitanya Chopra; an effervescent kid competing against Trilby. The dynamic between them is where a lot of the humor keeps its tempo by not overdoing the novelty of the main plotline and it has legs because of it.

When the wrong child actor is cast in a central role, it can have disastrous repercussions. Luckily for “Bad Words” it turned out just the opposite. The perfectly cast Chand is so likeable, he is the only kid, one could imagine micro-warming the heart of the film’s protagonist. Meanwhile; Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney and Rachel Harris are all given strong moments to brandish their comedic wit.

The film only falters in the last act with the resolution of Trilby’s mysterious motive for his cockamamie scheme. Until, the film’s second act it’s hard to decipher and then it tilts its hand too early and the cards are easy to read.

That is only a small grievance, and an incredibly small one, at that. Otherwise, “Bad Words” flows with pitch perfect precision, hitting the appropriate comedic notes along the way and exploring every possible aspect of its premise.

It never loses steam or pauses in awkward lurches. The content is vulgar in a manner that clearly conveys that it is a dark comedy. Subversively fashioned, it enunciates with entertainingly loquacious zeal. Rating: 7.1/10

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